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J Exp Bot. 2018 Jun 27;69(15):3541-3544. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ery161.

Arabidopsis research requires a critical re-evaluation of genetic tools.

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Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium.
Center for Plant Systems Biology, VIB, Gent, Belgium.


An increasing number of reports question conclusions based on loss-of-function lines that have unexpected genetic backgrounds. In this opinion paper, we urge researchers to meticulously (re)investigate phenotypes retrieved from various genetic backgrounds and be critical regarding some previously drawn conclusions. As an example, we provide new evidence that acr4-2 mutant phenotypes with respect to columella stem cells are due to the lack of ACR4 and not - at least not as a major contributor - to a mutation in QRT1. In addition, we take the opportunity to alert the scientific community about the qrt1-2 background of a large number of Syngenta Arabidopsis Insertion Library (SAIL) T-DNA lines, a feature that is not commonly recognized by Arabidopsis researchers. This qrt1-2 background might have an important impact on the interpretation of the results obtained using these research tools, now and in the past. In conclusion, as a community, we should continuously assess and - if necessary - correct our conclusions based on the large number of (genetic) tools our work is built on. In addition, the positive or negative results of this self-criticism should be made available to the scientific community.


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